MAXWELL AIR FORCE BASE, Ala. --
I am in the military with three "dependents." The possibility of my absence from home is a situation that my wife and I have to plan for.
Whether it is a deployment for several months, or a temporary duty assignment for a few weeks, a time will come when my wife will be solely responsible for the care of our other family members, Tucker and Kobe.
While my wife may not think it every moment of my absence, they are blessed to have two caretakers. Yes, my "kids" walk around on their hands and feet 95 percent of the time.
They occasionally check to see what's for dinner on the counter, or get too excited when we come home and jump up on our waists, typical dog behavior.
I have thought many times about single Airmen, and how they handle situations where they are absent from home, but their four-legged companions are left without orders to accompany them.
My wife and I volunteer with a local dog rescue, seeing many dogs that once slept nights on beds indoors, but are now homeless and confused.
Thanks to Dogs on Deployment, this doesn't have to be the case. They can take care of your pet for you, eliminating having to surrender your animal due to military service requirements.
"Our mission is to promote responsible pet ownership and provide an online resource for military members to search for volunteers who are willing to board their pets while they're on deployment," said Sally Fjordbak, Alabama coordinator for the program.
The national non-profit organization was started in June 2011 by two service members who had orders to move to Quantico, Va., where one would attend six months of military training, while the other was simultaneously deployed. Neither could care for their beloved dog, JD.
"They were lucky enough to have somebody take care of their pet while they were both gone, but recognized the importance for a program that would help others in a similar situation," said Fjordbak.
Seeing the need, the program solicits volunteers, known as boarders, who offer their time by providing a home for military members' pets while they are away on deployments, training, changing assignments or for veterans needing help while they recover from an illness.
"My dog is my baby, and it was very difficult to find another home for her while I was away," said Alissa Flockerzi, a military member who used the program. "After an easy registration and a few conversations with Emi's 'foster family,' I found a responsible family whom I never would have found otherwise."
The online resource is a network for military members to search for volunteers who are willing to board their pets while they're absent from home. On their website, military members can register their pets in need, and volunteers to sign up.
Once an account is created, pet owners and boarders are able to contact each other and make boarding arrangements. Dogs on Deployment is a listing site only and does not create boarding arrangements. Pet owners have the responsibility of choosing a boarder with whom they are comfortable entrusting with their pets.
Personally, I wouldn't leave my dogs with somebody I do not know. I can't think of many positive outcomes of that situation.
Kobe would be a 130 pound ball of "AFRAID OF LIFE" being around a stranger, and Tucker is a 1-year-old who would see an opportunity to run the show.
Dogs on Deployment figured as much. They not only provide helpful pet tips, but a pathway to a successful "deployment" for your pet.
Fjordbak suggests that once you've talked with a potential boarder, schedule a meet-and-greet and have a trial run for a short time period.
"It's good to see how the pet gets along with the boarder and potentially with other pets in the fostering house," she said. "Finding the right match is key to a successful 'deployment.'"
Dogs on Deployment aims to have boarders located near all major military bases in the United States. Their goal is for any military member to be able to find a boarder located within 50 miles, no matter what base they are stationed at or deploying from.
List your pets on their website soon as you find out you're leaving, which will increase your time for finding the perfect fit for your pet.
"Don't risk having to put your pet in a shelter or permanently re-home them because you waited until the last minute," warned Fjordbak.
The program may be named Dogs on Deployment, but it is a service for any type of pets, to include cats, birds or any other type of "family member" who can be matched to a fitting boarder.
The Dogs on Deployment website is www.dogsondeployment.org